With the back-to-school season well underway, Comcast says that its multiscreen TV service known as Xfinity on Campus is now available at more than 60 colleges and universities. But its corresponding Xfinity Stream TV offering for non-students is still largely missing in action.
The Xfinity on Campus service is unlike traditional cable TV in that consumers access it on computers, tablets and smartphones with an Internet connection rather through a TV set-top. Technically the service isn't an over-the-top application because Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) streams its video over a managed IP connection, but that's an academic distinction for consumers in many situations. The major difference for end users is that the service doesn't count toward Internet data caps, and because of content licensing rights, TV shows aren't automatically available once a student leaves campus. Some content is accessible beyond school boundaries through Comcast's TV Everywhere apps.
In addition to the fact that Comcast has more than doubled its Xfinity on Campus deployments since last year, the cable company says it has also added a cloud DVR feature to the service at no extra cost and has simplified its Xfinity TV app to make it easier for students to switch between Xfinity on Campus content while at school and TV Everywhere content when off campus.
Comcast executives have acknowledged in the past that the development of Xfinity on Campus led directly to the launch of the company's similar IP video service known as Xfinity Stream, which it introduced just over a year ago. However, while the footprint for Xfinity on Campus has jumped from 27 schools to 63 in a year, Xfinity Stream is still only available "in select areas in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and the Greater Chicago area." That's despite the fact that Comcast said it would also launch the service in Boston and Seattle in 2015 before extending it to the company's entire service area in 2016. (See Comcast 'Stream' Joins OTT Flood.)
The problem with Xfinity Stream for Comcast is that it's a low-cost product. The service is only $15 per month (plus taxes and fees) for access to a skinny bundle of channels that includes the major broadcast networks plus PBS, Univision, Telemundo and HBO. The $15 price tag also includes a cloud DVR feature.
Comcast views Stream as an entry-level service and hopes to use it as a way to upsell consumers to the full cable package, but if it finds that subscribers are content with the cheaper option, the company might also find itself cannibalizing its own higher-revenue video offering. (See Comcast Plays Down New OTT Service.)
The beauty of Xfinity on Campus, in contrast, is that it allows Comcast to hook the all-important younger generation on cable TV, but then push them toward a more expensive service after graduation.
There is competition for Comcast's Xfinity on Campus Service. The company Philo launched its own multiscreen TV offering (then under the name Tivli) when its startup founders were still at Harvard back in 2011. Last year, Philo announced it had signed deals with more than 40 schools nationwide, but it hasn't updated its number since then. Philo also appeared recently at the annual Independent Show for independent pay-TV and broadband operators. The company is still actively courting the university market, but it's also hinted at expanding into new markets like hospitality. (See Philo Raises $10M, Considers New Markets.)
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading